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Universal distracted driving laws

Health Factors: Community Safety
Decision Makers: Local Government State Government Federal Government
Evidence Rating: Expert Opinion
Population Reach: 50-99% of WI's population
Impact on Disparities: No impact on disparities likely

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Description

Universal distracted driving laws prohibit all drivers from texting or talking on a cell phone while driving. Universal laws restrict all drivers, while targeted laws restrict teenage or novice drivers (McCartt 2014). Laws may allow dialing, hands-free use, or talking while the car is stopped in traffic or at an intersection, and generally allow cell phone use during an emergency. Distracted driving occurs when drivers use cell phones or turn their attention to activities other than driving. Risk of crashes may increase when drivers reach for, dial, or answer a cellphone (IIHS-Distracted driving 2014). Researchers estimate that 660,000 drivers are using cell phones or other electronic devices at any given daytime moment (NHTSA-Distraction statistics). In a 2013 survey, a quarter of respondents reported sending a text or email while driving in the last month, and three quarters reported reading a text or email (IIHS-Distracted driving 2014). Young drivers are more likely to talk on cell phones than older drivers, and much more likely to text while driving (IIHS-Distracted driving 2014, NHTSA-Distraction statistics). 

Expected Beneficial Outcomes

Reduced distracted driving
Reduced crashes

Evidence of Effectiveness

Universal distracted driving laws are a suggested strategy to reduce cell phone use (GHSA-Distracted driving). Available evidence suggests that such laws can reduce cell phone use in some circumstances (McCartt 2014). While some studies indicate that universal distracted driving laws reduce crashes, others find they do not (McCartt 2014). Additional evidence is needed to confirm effects (McCartt 2014).

In some circumstances, highly visible enforcement campaigns can lead to greater reductions in cellphone use (NHTSA 2014) and increase awareness of the law (NHTSA 2014, NHTSA-Cosgrove 2010).  

Distracted driving laws aimed only at teenage cell phone use appear not to reduce teen’s use of cell phones. Additional study is needed to determine the effects of laws that prohibit texting but allow other cellphone use. Implementing age- or texting-targeted laws can be challenging if police officers have difficulty discerning driver age and behavior (McCartt 2014). 

Implementation

United States

As of May 2015, talking on a hand-held cell phone while driving is prohibited for all drivers in 13 states and Washington, DC, and for novice drivers in 30 states and Washington, DC (IIHS 2015). However, most allow drivers to dial cellphones (McCartt 2014). Handhelding texting is prohibited for all drivers in 43 states and Washington, DC, and for novice drivers in three additional states (LawAtlas-Distracted driving). 

Hartford, Connecticut, a city with a prohibition and enforcement campaign, spent about $220,000 on media and dedicated about 5200 officer hours to enhanced enforcement in 2010 and 2011. Their effort included four waves of enforcement coupled with targeted advertising. Hartford found flexibility in scheduling overtime shifts critical to program success (NHTSA-Chaudhary 2012).

Wisconsin

Wisconsin prohibits texting by all drivers. Cell phone use is prohibited for novice drivers, but allowed for experienced drivers (IIHS 2015).

Implementation Resources

IIHS 2015 - Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI). Cell phones and texting. 2015. Accessed on February 4, 2016
NHTSA-Chaudhary 2012 - Chaudhary N, Casanova-Powell T, Cosgrove L, Reagan I, Williams A. Evaluation of NHTSA distracted driving demonstration projects in Connecticut and New York (Report No. DOT HS 811 635). Washington, DC: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), US Department of Transportation (US DOT); 2012. Accessed on March 1, 2017
NHTSA-Distraction - National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Distraction.gov: Official US Government website for distracted driving. Accessed on November 20, 2015

Citations - Description

IIHS-Distracted driving 2014 - Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Distracted driving: Cellphones, texting and driving. 2014. Accessed on February 4, 2016
McCartt 2014 - McCartt AT, Kidd DG, Teoh ER. Driver cellphone and texting bans in the United States: Evidence of effectiveness. Annals of Advances in Automotive Medicine. 2014;58:99-114. Accessed on February 4, 2016
NHTSA-Distraction statistics - National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Facts and Statistics. Washington, DC: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), US Department of Transportation (US DOT); 2013. Accessed on March 1, 2017

Citations - Evidence

GHSA-Distracted driving - Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA). Distracted driving. 2015. Accessed on February 4, 2016
McCartt 2014 - McCartt AT, Kidd DG, Teoh ER. Driver cellphone and texting bans in the United States: Evidence of effectiveness. Annals of Advances in Automotive Medicine. 2014;58:99-114. Accessed on February 4, 2016
NHTSA 2014 - National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Distracted driving high-visibility enforcement demonstrations in California and Delaware. Washington DC: US Department of Transportation (US DOT); 2014. Accessed on March 1, 2017
NHTSA-Cosgrove 2010 - Cosgrove L, Chaudhary N, Roberts S. High visibility enforcement demonstration programs in Connecticut and New York reduce hand-held phone use. Washington, DC: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), US Department of Transportation (US DOT); 2010. Accessed on March 1, 2017

Citations - Implementation

IIHS 2015 - Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI). Cell phones and texting. 2015. Accessed on February 4, 2016
LawAtlas-Distracted driving - LawAtlas. Distracted driving map. Accessed on January 20, 2016
McCartt 2014 - McCartt AT, Kidd DG, Teoh ER. Driver cellphone and texting bans in the United States: Evidence of effectiveness. Annals of Advances in Automotive Medicine. 2014;58:99-114. Accessed on February 4, 2016
NHTSA-Chaudhary 2012 - Chaudhary N, Casanova-Powell T, Cosgrove L, Reagan I, Williams A. Evaluation of NHTSA distracted driving demonstration projects in Connecticut and New York (Report No. DOT HS 811 635). Washington, DC: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), US Department of Transportation (US DOT); 2012. Accessed on March 1, 2017

Page Last Updated

March 14, 2016